Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says she may oppose the next federal coronavirus aid bill for being too small and is urging Republicans concerned about the national debt to help her raise taxes to finance items such as recurring $2,000 direct payments.
The New York Democrat, a self-declared socialist who represents one of the areas hardest-hit by the virus, said Monday, “We cannot bow to the logic that a dime and a crumb is better than nothing. We need to be able to play hardball.”
“If you’re worried about the deficit and if you’re worried about our national debt, let’s raise some taxes,” AOC said in a digital press conference with fellow left-wing members of Congress.
“Let’s make sure that [Amazon founder] Jeff Bezos pays what he needs to pay and contribute to this country. Let’s make sure Facebook pays taxes for once. Let’s make sure Walmart pays taxes for once, so that they don’t pay less than undocumented immigrants do in taxes in the United States of America. So let’s get it together. I’m willing to come halfway, and let’s raise some taxes so that we can bring down the deficit — I’m happy with that.”
The White House is pushing for a $250 billion expansion of a small-business loan program designed to prevent layoffs, which ran out of money last week. Senate Democrats blocked an extension to push for $100 billion in hospital aid and $150 billion for state and local governments.
AOC said she wanted the bill to go even further — authorizing a recurring $2,000-per-month direct payment, plus $1,000 per month per child, regardless of immigration status. Her opposition to a smaller bill could embolden other lawmakers in both parties who almost unanimously passed the $2 trillion stimulus bill last month despite many qualms.
AOC speaks at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.AP
“If you’re going to say and if we’re going to say that this new bill is going to give us $5 and then Congress is gonna peace out for another month-long recess, I’m here to say that that’s not going to help our communities,” she said.
President Trump said last week he supports additional direct payments, though in subsequent legislation. A $2 trillion stimulus bill approved last month delivered an initial $1,200 per person for people earning up to $75,000 and $500 per child.
“We have not seen the final text of this bill. But what I can say is that if it matches up with what has been reported, I will not support this bill,” AOC said Monday. “As the person who’s representing the most impacted districts in the country, my constituents were upset about the first package because it is insulting to think that we can pass such a small amount of money in the context of not knowing when Congress is even going to reconvene.”
Ocasio-Cortez, 30, likened the COVID-19 outbreak to 9/11.
“In my district, and in New York City and in our community, we’ve had more deaths than 9/11,” she said.
“Multiple times of 9/11 have happened in the time since Congress has recessed, so I’m not here with the luxury of time. I need legislation that is going to save people’s lives. And the fact that Republicans do not want to have recurring payments, the fact that Republicans don’t want to fund states and cities, the fact that Republicans don’t want to guarantee people’s health care is unacceptable to me.”
The congresswoman said she could not “insult” her constituents by backing narrow legislation.
“As someone that has to make calls every single day to sons and daughters and widows and parishioners and church leaders and community boards, giving them my condolences, every single day about people in our community who are dying, I am not here for a $5 bill — I’m not. And I will not insult my community with one,” she said.
Still, she said she was relieved the bill would not have a “corrupt” “slush fund,” slamming a $500 billion Treasury Department loan program funded in the initial stimulus.
AOC was joined in the digital press conference by fellow Democratic members of the left-wing “Squad” — Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — as well as Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairs Reps. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Pramila Jayapal of Washington.
Jayapal said the 95-member caucus was hoping to influence negotiations on legislation and would make a decision on its position after the bill text is released, which is expected this week.